I have been very red wine heavy in the recent weeks, a likely product of the weather not really warming up and watching a lot of death and bloodshed on Game of Thrones. Is it necessary to drink red wine exclusively while watching unfolding carnage? No. But it feels somehow off to sit and relax with a white wine spritzer while dragons torch the zombie army of the dead. I mean, you do you. But I think there’s probably a reason most of the classic television and movie villains are red wine drinkers. Chardonnay is not really instilling fear in the hearts of anyone.
I keep insisting that spring is going to show up at any moment, and if I say it enough times and believe hard enough, it’s destined to come true. And now, because I really want to put all my energy and focus into making it happen, I’ll recommend a spring wine perfect for your Mother’s Day brunches, your Memorial Day barbeques, or your Bachelorette premiere viewing parties! Clearly if you’re outfitted with the proper wine, the proper season will follow along in short order.
In honor of my mother who celebrated both a BIG birthday last weekend and Mother’s Day this coming Sunday, I give you a real wild card: RUZA White Zinfandel: Lodi, California
Yes, you read that right. I’m recommending a white zinfandel, not my much loved red variety! Why? Because while my mom’s wine palette has expanded greatly in the last decade, white zin is the only wine I remember her drinking when I was a kid! Like, I very vividly remember the box of Franzia in the back hall and on the picnic table at the lake. I think I even remember it being poured over ice in the big plastic cups we used to take out on the boat. Wine snobbish it was not!
Truth be told, white zinfandel gets a bad rap for being cheap, overly sweet, and “easy.” What’s an easy wine? I suppose one that lacks structure and complexity, though let’s be honest…sometimes you just want a glass of wine without having to sift through and decipher every nuance and complexity. Easy wines, in my opinion, have there time and place. Not every wine needs to be an adventure.
White zinfandel was actually discovered accidentally by the Sutter Home winery in the process of making their traditional red zinfandel. A stuck fermentation process led to not all the sugars converting to alcohol resulting in a light pink vintage that was sweeter with a lower ABV% than usual. Sutter Home decided to bottle it anyway, though with the light pink color and significant difference in structure and flavor, it couldn’t be marketed as a traditional zinfandel. Thus, white zinfandel was born.
Despite its less than classy reputation, it’s estimated that 1 in 10 bottles of wine purchased is white zinfandel, and many wine drinkers credit it as the very approachable and highly drinkable way they were introduced to wine in the first place. That doesn’t mean you’re going to serve it for your fancy holiday meals or if you’re trying to show off to your wino guests, but it also shouldn’t mean that’s it’s off limits for enjoying a glass on the patio!
Back to RUZA. RUZA is part of the new white zinfandel renaissance, high quality zinfandel producers in California (where the vast majority of zinfandel grapes are grown) trying to reclaim the moniker and produce wine that shows off the region’s primary varietal while staying true to the qualities of white zin that appeal to the less stuffy wine population. RUZA strikes a good balance of being both expressly white zin, without feeling like a cheap boxed wine or a juicy, wine cooler. Fresh notes of strawberry and melon that categorize the style are evident, but care has been take to tone back the sweetness, leaning it more towards a French style rosé than a bottle of Arbor Mist.
(Consequently, another throwback wine memory of my mom also involves Cranberry Twist Arbor Mist. So if you feel like you want/need to go that route…well you’re at least in good company.)
As the season of rosé all day is upon us, now is the time to revisit a cult classic that may have unfairly gotten a bad name. RUZA should raise your expectations for anything categorized as white zin, and may even have you seeking it out from time to time should the occasion feel right. (Just maybe try to keep it flowing from the bottle and not a box!)